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Ask The Allergy Chef: Can You Be Allergic to a Location?

Ask The Allergy Chef: Can You Be Allergic to a Location?

    Hi, I know this may sound like a strange question, but I don’t know who else to ask. Is it possible to be allergic to a location? I feel like every time I go to a few specific places, I feel very unwell. Is this something you’ve ever experienced, or can shed some light on?

    Sounds like you have a complex case. First, the simple answer, then a bit of a story based on my personal experience.

    No, you aren’t allergic to a location or specific building. You’re reacting to something there. Hope that makes sense.

    Let’s look at it a different way. If you’re airborne allergic to peanuts, you’re not allergic to a restaurant (actual building) that roasts peanuts non-stop. You’re allergic to what they’re cooking on site.

    If someone is managing MCS or MCAS, it’s not uncommon to have reactions to “places” when in reality, they’re responding to the mold, pollen, EMS, and so on.

    My Personal Experience with Location-Based Reactions

    Recently, I was supposed to be at a trade show for a week. I drove about 400 miles, and then turned around and came back the next day. In fact, on the way back, I had to go 60 miles out of the way to take a less reactive route. I was having an allergic reaction whilst driving based on the location.

    This wasn’t the first time this happened in this area, but I thought the new vehicle would have better protection (in its defense, I did last longer when compared to the old car). The last time I tried to go to this show was 3 years prior and it was a disaster. I had assumed it was because the car was older and was letting in a lot of air. By the time I arrived in the city, I was in a 9/10 on the pain scale.

    I then had another reaction on the same stretch of highway and because of another medical issue, thought it was just me. This specific trip however, it was alllllll caused by the highway/region. I was in a new truck, I hadn’t eaten anything, and I’d been on other long drives in other states without an issue. I was finally able to see clearly that there’s a distinct region in California that makes me feel pretty sick. Now I bet you’re really wondering what I reacted to.

    If I had to guess, the farmland (think pesticides, chemicals, etc.) and the poor air quality. Combined, it’s enough to set off a reaction after about 20 minutes of driving for me. Interestingly, a few other people shared that they’ve had reactions on the same stretch of highway.

    I thought about staying for the show, but then had to really ask myself. How would I feel if someone else did this to their child? Forced their kid to suffer for a full week just to attend a trade show? I’d be pretty upset with said parent. Which made me realize, don’t I owe myself the same kind of treatment?

    In my case, the reactions were:

    • Moderate Eye Pain when Moving Eyes
    • Ear Congestion to the point of Diminished Hearing
    • Stabbing Chest Pains
    • “Drowning” Sensation

    The drowning, it’s a hard symptom to describe to others. It’s like you’re breathing through water, but it’s not painful. It’s also not normal. These symptoms weren’t so severe that I couldn’t “manage”, but again, is a trade show really worth the suffering? Not only that, but I have developed such an unnatural tolerance for this sort of stuff.

    Add to that needing to wear a full faced respirator for 8+ hours a day which is incredibly painful, and the week was just looking awful for me. Knowing that I would have to drive 3 – 4 hours a day (to get to the show then back to the accommodations) basically in a vat of poison, then be in a respirator the rest of the time, and have poor sleep… I just decided to turn back.

    This is Why I Have my Full Faced Respirator

    Without my respirator, it would be nearly impossible to leave the house safely. It provides me with safe air on a closed circuit. This level of sensitivity is not common, which is why many people wouldn’t be able to relate to you.

    What you’re experiencing is basically an airborne reaction to something onsite when you visit those few places. You can either avoid those places, experiment with different respirators, or see if something can be done to eliminate the allergen onsite. That last option is only feasible if it’s at a friend or family member’s house.

    Honestly, I hope you don’t let these reactions stop you from living. Take them seriously, do what you can to prevent them, but also live and enjoy life. Find solutions that will work for you, and hold your head up high if people give you side eye in a respirator (if that’s the route you go).

    I’m rooting for you,
    ~The Allergy Chef

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